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Stars come out for Walmart fest

Execs keep it short as Twain, Hart, Snoop Dogg take stage by Serenah McKay | June 3, 2023 at 7:28 a.m.
Walmart Canada associates watch a performance, Friday, June 2, 2023 during the Walmart Shareholders Celebration at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Visit for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Walmart Inc. upped the wow factor at this year's employee and shareholders celebration Friday with A-list stars and a Hollywood-style film sequence starring Northwest Arkansas.

Country music star Shania Twain opened the show held at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville for upward of 10,000 Walmart employees from around the world.

Comedian and actor Kevin Hart hosted the event that ran at least a half-hour longer than the usual three hours. In a veiled reference to one of the region's favorite pastimes, the diminutive Hart said he tried mountain biking, but his legs were too short.

The celebrity host and guest artists are kept top secret before the big show. Past hosts include James Corden, Will Smith, Hugh Jackman and Reese Witherspoon.

Grammy and Oscar-winning singer-songwriter John Legend performed a song he wrote for his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, that was first sung at their wedding in 2013. Rapper Snoop Dogg, who is scheduled to appear at the Walmart AMP in July, also performed.

Actors Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans popped in to promote their products being sold in Walmart stores.

The surprise act closing the show was rapper, businessman and actor Pitbull. Accompanied by six female dancers, Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) had the already hyped-up crowd dancing in the aisles.

Walmart's top executives, who give talks each year on various aspects of the company, spoke much more briefly than usual. But Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon kept being interrupted by cellphone calls from actor Tom Cruise.

Known for his "Mission: Impossible" film franchise, Cruise introduced a similar film sequence in which helicopters buzz Northwest Arkansas. One lowers a rope and a man climbs down it to deliver a Walmart package to a surprised homeowner.

McMillon said that instead of "Mission: Impossible," Walmart operates on the vision of making the impossible possible. Despite a pandemic followed by near-record inflation, McMillon said, Walmart added $125 billion in revenue over the past three years.

Cruise appeared virtually one more time to offer a Walmart store worker a promotion, which the emotional employee accepted.

McMillon introduced to attendees the company's new definition of itself: "We are a people-led, tech-powered omnichannel retailer dedicated to helping people save money and live better."

The company will use artificial intelligence and data to better understand what shoppers want, McMillon said.

Plus, "our other businesses let us make a profit without having to raise prices, which we never want to do."

In a question-and-answer session with the media after the celebration, McMillon addressed the problem of "shrink," or loss of inventory usually caused by theft. Walmart and many other retailers are battling this problem.

McMillon said first that retailers need help from others to solve it. This would largely fall to law enforcement.

The problem varies by market and is very localized, he said.

Many stores keep certain items -- those most often stolen -- under lock and key. But McMillon said the company would prefer not to have to do that.

"Locking things up is never our first choice," McMillon said.

Looking ahead at back-to-school shopping, which starts around the end of the second quarter and reaches its peak in the third quarter, McMillon said the company is ready for it.

"We have a great back-to-school assortment," he said.

Print Headline: Stars come out for Walmart fest


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